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Ivory Bill - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 24th October 2018.

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Photo of Lord Carrington of Fulham Lord Carrington of Fulham Conservative 6:15 pm, 24th October 2018

My Lords, I do not want to intervene for long, but there is a slight problem with the definition of “outstandingly”. What is outstanding to one expert may well not be to another. I raised this at Second Reading. It comes down to what sort of museum collections you are trying to create. Museums such as the V&A or the British Museum are interested only in outstanding items, and they can define what they mean by an outstanding item by reference to what they already have in their collections: to be outstanding the item should add to that collection.

Many museums, however, are not trying to do what the British Museum or the V&A do. The example that I have used before is the Geffrye Museum, a series of old almshouses on the continuation of Bishopsgate, just outside the City of London. The Geffrye Museum recreates middle-class rooms down the ages. Those middle-class rooms will have ivory items—ivory cutlery and tea caddies for example—none of which is outstanding in itself. However, items are outstanding in the sense that the Geffrye Museum considers them exemplars of what was used at that time by middle-class people—and increasingly, in some museums, by working-class people in this country. The definition of outstanding is, therefore, somewhat open to interpretation and it would be much better to remove “outstandingly” and replace it with a word such as “significant”, which would allow much more leeway in deciding whether an item is worthy of a national collection or is something that no one is interested in preserving.